“We integrated High Fidelity's technology with our own audio processing to make Clubhouse conversations feel more natural and immersive,” says Clubhouse’s Head of Streaming, Justin Uberti.
“While Clubhouse and other voice chat apps bring people together in virtual social settings, the audio generally sounds relatively flat, like it’s emanating from a single central location. But at the in-person gatherings Clubhouse is meant to simulate, you’d be hearing audio from all around the room, from the left and right of a stage to the various locations in the audience where speakers might ask their questions,” writes TechCrunch’s Taylor Hatmaker.
"While the signal processing behind spatial audio is not new — deploying it in a way so that it sounds great for everyone is challenging — that's our secret sauce," says Ken Cooke, High Fidelity's audio expert who created the technology. Cooke goes on to describe how: "Our HRTF filters continuously interpolate to avoid artifacts when sound sources move. We handle the extreme dynamic range of many people talking at once (or right into your ear) without distortion. And finally, the algorithms have been optimized to preserve battery life on mobile devices."
There are a variety of specific scenarios spatial audio can enhance. “Experiences like comedy, music and even ASMR” have great subcommunities on Clubhouse that can benefit. “On Clubhouse, when you feel the laughter come from all around you, it feels a lot like a comedy club experience,” says Uberti. Someone telling a joke won’t feel flat.
“We couldn’t be happier to hear spatial audio running in Clubhouse rooms. If anyone understands the importance of delivering high quality audio to power valuable conversations, it’s Clubhouse,” says High Fidelity’s cofounder and CEO Philip Rosedale. “I think we’re going to see new spatial audio solutions like ours replacing conventional VOIP in all kinds of applications. It has the power to really transform voice communication and once you experience it, it is incredibly difficult to go back.”
Audio sparks emotion. There’s some great research on voice communication and why spatial audio compliments social audio apps so perfectly. As my colleague Emily has noted, “Social audio is all about sharing ideas, not visuals, so the content is emphasized differently than the social media platforms we’ve gotten used to in the past twenty years.”
Speaking of the benefits of voice-only communication, there’s been a good amount of research on that in the past couple years, too. As Uberti aptly explained in his interview with TechCrunch, “Your mind has to figure out who’s talking. Without spatial cues you have to use timbre… that requires more cognitive effort. [Spatial audio] could actually make for a more enjoyable experience aside from more immersion.”
For over a year the Clubhouse social audio app was invite-only and just for iPhones. It’s now available on Android, too, and you don’t need an invite. So if you haven’t had a chance to experience a live conversation delivered with spatial audio — download the Clubhouse app and give it a go.
Building Your Own Application?
If high quality audio that enhances speaker intelligibility so your users can have more natural and immersive conversations, we encourage you to give High Fidelity's spatial audio technology a try.
High Fidelity offers two options for integrating our Spatial Audio technology. If you're building a web application, start with the Spatial Audio API and SDKs. If you're building a native app, like Clubhouse, licensing our local spatializer is going to be best.